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This is the second attack of Thirsty Ear's Blue Series Continuum, and quite honestly a big step beyond the Good and Evil Sessions that preceded it. Matthew Shipp jumps into the subtitle ("Featuring the Music of...") and apparently the compositional helm as well. Instead of the brass-heavy action from last time, the Sorcerer Sessions balance things out much more evenly with violin and clarinet (Daniel Bernard Roumain and Evan Ziporyn, respectively) and a real drummer, Gerald Cleaver. FLAM, the shadow behind the scenes, pitches in mostly to color the sound and not so much to turn it into hip-hop beats. His processing is tasteful and never heavy-handed.
Shipp has finally come to terms with how to get the most sound out of his instruments, in this case dominated by his lovely dark, gothic voice on the piano. That was the sound that earned him recognition, and to be honest, it's his greatest strength. As on tracks like "Invisible Steps," where everyone else in the band seems content to agree, Shipp walks out on that black ice with a fearless stride. One tune later, "Particle" fractures the ice and leaves you hanging in thin air. (Studio-manipulated, mind you.)
It seems as if Shipp, bassist William Parker, and drummer Gerald Cleaver are the foundation and the skeleton upon which all the rest of this music is fleshed out. That means that violinist Roumain gets to have his voice heard loud and clear. Ziporyn takes more than a few adventures out of bounds; but they somehow merge into a textural layer atop the rest. Maybe that's FLAM, maybe that's Shipp, maybe that's some entirely spontaneous event. But this is one of the most successful jazztronic efforts by the label that more or less spawned the term. It spends its time avoiding beat-boxing and riff-raffing, two things that poison most of the modern fusions out there today. Don't go looking to shake your booty, okay?
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.